The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State have called for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities commenced immediately in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The seven members of the EAC have directed the regional force to move with speed to restore peace in DR Congo, in the restive North and South Kivu as well as Ituri Provinces.
The leaders were speaking during a Septet Summit and Third Conclave of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State on the peace and security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) convened by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi.
The meeting also called for the withdrawal from recently taken positions in the Northern region of DRC.
Similarly, President Kenyatta directed the political process to be intensified by all parties in order to allow the citizens of the DRC to feel safe and secure and be able to pick up and continue their respective social, cultural, and economic activities.
The concave meeting comes as heavy fighting revives decades-old rivalry between DRC and Rwanda, with the mineral-rich DRC struggling to contain several armed groups in the east of the nation.
President Kenyatta directed the regional security force to cooperate in the implementation of the disarmament and demobilization process.
The leaders committed to contribute to reconciliation and lasting peace and determined to find a swift and lasting solution to the conflict in the DRC, particularly in the North and South Kivu as well as Ituri Provinces.
The Heads of States appreciated the supremacy of the Constitution of the DRC and committed to maintain a unified and secure country, with coherence and credible institutions of central government exercising full territorial authority and recognizing that peaceful means are the best way to resolve conflicts.
The Conclave received a written brief on the political track of the Nairobi process which detailed actions and activities that have been undertaken since the last convening of the second Conclave including the convening of the consultations with various armed and rebel groups within the DRC as a follow up to the consultations undertaken by the DRC with the rebel groups in Nairobi.
The conclave agreed and reinforced that trust and confidence-building, cessation of hostilities, unconditional ceasefire, participation in the political processes in the country, prioritization and participation in the country’s development, citizenship, presence of foreign negative elements, fate of combatants during reintegration and status of refugees and internally displaced persons are among critical issues that require concerted, urgent and durable resolution.
The Heads of State also emphasised that all offensive language, hate speech, threats of genocide and other politically inciting language must cease and must be discouraged by all parties and that the people of the DRC must be encouraged to work together in order to stabilize the eastern DRC for it to prosper.
Last week, President Kenyatta called for the cessation of hostilities between armed groups in Eastern DRC to facilitate its participation in the country’s political process.
He said the ongoing hostilities in particular threaten to undermine the ongoing political process (the political track) aimed at addressing the security situation in the region.
“I note, with concern, that recent developments including, open hostilities, create a serious threat to the success of the regional leadership’s work including the promotion of outcomes of the Inter-Congolese (DRC) consultations of the Nairobi Process,” said President Kenyatta.
The President called for an immediate cessation of all hostilities in the Eastern DRC and for all armed groups, both foreign and local, to lay down arms immediately and unconditionally and to commit to a political process,” he said.
He further called for the activation of the East African Regional Force under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC).
The Regional Force is a component of the military/security enforcement track provided for in the Communiqué adopted on 21st April 2022.
The President directed regional Commanders of the respective Defence Forces within EAC to finalize preparations to undertake the deployment of the Regional Force.
DRC joined the East African Community (EAC) officially in April as the 7th member with EAC Heads of States calling for peace in the country.
ln the same month, April, the East African Community Heads of State proposed a mechanism that aimed at facilitating the implementation of the country’s political and military and security enforcement tracks.
They directed all armed groups in the DRC to participate unconditionally in the political process to resolve their grievances.
The proposal was delivered by five Heads of State namely; Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Everiste Ndayishimiye of Burundi and their DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi at ‘The Heads of State Conclave on the Democratic Republic of Congo’ convened in Nairobi, Kenya.
“That the establishment of the regional force to fight the negative forces should commence immediately under the leadership of the DRC.” They said.
In a statement, the leaders were categorical that all foreign armed groups in the DRC must disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin.
“Failure to do so these groups would be considered as negative forces and handled militarily by the region,” warned EAC presidents.
The leaders further resolved to meet within one month to evaluate progress on the implementation of work.
Additionally, the leaders resolved to mobilize other East African Community leaders to join the conclave with a view to engage them in future sittings. They are also intent on welcoming the participation, in observer status, of a representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Secretary-General of the ICGLR, the Secretary-General of the East African Community, as and when called upon to participate by the DRC.
The meeting further resolved to bring on board bilateral interlocutors such as the United States and France in observer status, and that a Secretariat be formed to oversee the implementation of the agreements arrived at the meeting.
AU calls for peace
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat last week called for immediate cessation of all forms of violence by any armed group and of any military activity presenting any threat to either of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In a statement, the Chairperson of the Commission strongly encouraged the two brotherly countries to resolve any differences through dialogue and fraternal consultation offered by the regional mechanisms.
In particular he cited those undertaken by João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, and President of the Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), as well as the Nairobi process.
DR Congo is a vast country with immense economic resources and, until recently, has been at the centre of what some observers call “Africa’s world war”, with widespread civilian suffering the result.
According to World Bank estimates, DRC has vast amounts of oil, diamonds, gold, and other natural resources, a majority of the population about 64% is considered extremely poor and lives on less than $1.90 a day.
The war has claimed an up to six million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition.
The war has an economic as well as a political side. Fighting that was fueled by the country’s vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder natural resources.
The M23 was formed by former members of a Congolese Tutsi armed group that was once supported by Rwanda and Uganda.
BBC wrote that the rebels had been incorporated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009.
In 2012, they mutinied, saying the deal had not been upheld and naming their group the March 23 (M23) Movement.
Becoming one of the scores of armed groups that roam eastern DR Congo, the M23 briefly seized the city of Goma before being defeated and forced out of the country.
After its defeat, the M23 eventually signed an accord with the government that included provisions for its fighters to reintegrate into civilian society. But the group has again accused the government of reneging on the deal and resumed fighting last year.
Their latest offensive began in late March.
Some militias fight on in the east, where a large United Nations force is struggling to keep the peace.
United Nations investigators have previously accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23.
Both countries, which intervened militarily in Congo during two regional wars 20 years ago, deny this.